CHAPTER 1 THE DAY OF LOVE, VALENTINES
Valentine's Day is the only day out of the year that is devoted to nothing else, but love and romance, or so the card and candy companies would have you believe. For me, the day means neither of those things. Instead, this year, it's the day I've had all I can handle. Today is the day I've been promising myself, and my two children, would come for years!
‘Ha! Before I get into my entire life story maybe I should just start with my name instead!’
My name is Marie Long, I'm a 29 year old mother of two sweet kids, Bree and Alex, and today is the day we are leaving my abusive husband. The father of my children. The boogeyman of my living dreams.
For you to understand, and sometimes me as well, how I got sucked into this man's web of lies, you might need to know a little bit about me and the woman I was before.
I was the second child for my mom, Ethel Harlos, and the first and only for her husband Will Rose at the time. My mom had a son before they got together and my whole life she's never told us who his father is. My Aunt told me one time mom didn't talk about him because the day they were supposed to get married he left her standing at the altar.
My entire childhood my parents fought daily. As soon as they stepped foot in the same room together the cussing and hatred would spew from their mouths. My brother was eight years old when I was born and by the time I was starting school myself he was almost done, and didn't have time to play with the little girl. With my mom and dad fighting all the time I would sneak away from the house and stay gone all day with no one really wondering where I was.
All through Elementary School I was the kid who was happy to play on her own. Hiking through the woods, riding my bike all over the small town we lived in, and playing in the creek that ran by my house. Life wasn't easy, in fact it was quite lonely at times, but I'd been making it work so far. Then the summer of 1999 taught me my first life lesson I'll never forget. You can't always depend on family.
After my brother graduated high school that year he refused to have anything to do with our mom and moved out. Soon after my mom went to work one morning, and didn't come back. For the first time in my life my dad had to actually take care of me. Let's just say the summer before my 10th birthday was like hell on earth.
August 1st she showed up at our door that morning and told me to pack my stuff. I was coming to live with her in Little Rock Arkansas. Shed moved up there and got a job and a nice little apart for the both of us to stay. I jumped at the chance. I had my mom back! The one person who gave a crap about me so far in my short life had come back for me. She apologized for leaving me, told me it was the hardest thing she had ever had to do. But, she couldn't take me when she left, she didn't have anywhere for me yet. I believed her.
The first year was great. I'd never been happier in my life. We lived in a nice apartment in a good part of town. My school was amazing and I quickly made friends. I didn't get to see my dad or my friends from home very much, but I didn't mind.
Then karma taught me the second biggest lesson in life, 'Love is only a four letter word.'
The end of my fifth grade year my mom lost her job, and sent me back to my dad's. My dad had just remarried and my new stepmom didn't want his daughter as part of the deal. At the age of just eleven I had nowhere to live and no one who wanted me.
For the next four years I went from couch to couch. Any friend that would let me stay with them was like a god send. I worked wherever I could. Any money I earned went for rent and food, but I managed to save just enough for a car.
On my sixteenth birthday at a shade tree mechanic shop in the middle of Virginia I bought my first car for eight hundred bucks. The forest green Pontiac GrandAm became the first stable home I'd had in years!
I drove that car from one coast to the other. Taking odd jobs along the way for gas and food. Never staying in one place for very long at all. The people I met along the way were like no one I'd meet in my life. Grifters like me. Outcast that no one wanted or thought about. Just like me, my family, or so I thought.
When I was seventeen years old my friends and I were headed from Montana to Florida. We'd spent the winter in the mountains and were all going crazy for warmer weather so we packed up and headed south. We decided to cut through Alabama straight south to the beaches of Florida.
Everything was going fine till I topped a hill in a small hick town straight into a speed trap with a sheriff and his radar waiting. My car was fine. I made sure I always had insurance and my driver's license was always up to date. The speeding ticket shouldn't have been much, but the pot the sheriff officer found in the trunk wasn't.
My days of being on my own cake to a crashing halt in a fabulous way. The judge didn't care that I was a minor, and didn't believe that my parents really wanted their child roaming the country on her own. He gave me a choice, foster care till my eighteenth birthday, stay right there in Free State Alabama and join a work release program for the next year, or spend the next ten years in jail. I chose the work program. The first of the dominions leading me to my fate had fallen.
Two months in Free State I met Dewayne Long for the first time. My first thought was 'Damn, he's the biggest man I'd even seen'. Standing at 6'6 with shoulders almost as wide he was massive. He looked like a NFL starting tackle. He had distinct Irish roots with copper hair and freckles all over his face and arms. The glasses he wore were the only thing that didn't belong to his tough guy image.
Everyone in town knew him, and loved to talk about his high school football glory days. Apparently their team won the state championship three years in a row, and not another one since. He was best friends with a rising star on the small police force, and worked at the town's only factor since he was eighteen never missing a day.
With my new friends from the work release and half the town's blessing we started dating soon after. He was the first boyfriend I'd ever had, and was amazing. Dewayne was funny and caring. Always surprising me with flowers or small gifts for no reason. He always asked about how I was feeling and if I was ok. He wanted to know everything about me, and made me feel loved for the first time in years. We moved in together just four months after we started dating, and soon found out we were expecting our first child.
Bree Long came along nine months later, and six months after that we Dewayne and I got married. My work release ended the same month and in the fall I was registered for my first semester of junior college. Something I never thought I'd be able to do since I never went to high school. My life was finally perfect. Should have known it wouldn't last long.
After Bree's first birthday everything changed. Dewayne started to fight with me daily. It started with just hollering about the house being messy, or dinner not being done when he got home at night. Soon it progressed to him hitting me to get his point across. Dewayne would accuse me of cheating with my classmates if I had a project with a male I had to complete. He started coming to the college and stalking the halls to make sure I was in my classes. Harassing my professors about if I was in class or not. Finally the college asked me to leave because Dewayne had become such a problem.
After that he made a rule I wasn't allowed to work after he got me fired from my job at the local gas station. He got his best friend Officer Jack Denton to threaten the few friends I'd made to stay away from me from now on. "Don't answer her calls, don't drive by her house, don't wonder how she is. Just forget you know a Marie Long.", is what I later found out he said. Dewayne had made sure I was completely cut off from the outside world. Dewayne's dark side was finally set free.
Dewayne's abuse became a daily thing. Verbal and physical he didn't care. A few times he even let Jack have me for the weekend to do with as he pleased. I learned to keep my mouth shut and to make myself as small as possible to try and avoid his anger. Nothing ever worked. Thankfully he kept away from Bree saving everything for me.
Two years into my hell things got even worse. After a weekend of being Jack's pet, two weeks later, I found out I was pregnant again. Dewayne went crazy. The verbal abuse hurt just as much as the five fist size bruises he left on my abdomen. That was my first trip to the emergency room, but wouldn't be my last.
For the entire nine months I was pregnant with my son Dewayne told me daily how much of a whore I was. That this wasn't his child, and my baby wouldn't see the light of day if he had it his way. On September third Alex Long made his screaming entrance into this world the spitting image of his father Dewayne. He never apologized.
I took my son home, and tried to give my kids the stable life I'd craved so much growing up. I made sure they didn't want for anything. Made sure they were smart, independent, fun loving children. I tried my hardest for them not to see the violence their father inflicted on me. I did my best to shield them from his anger as best I could.
When Alex started his four year old kindergarten classes at the local elementary school the teachers and principal noticed something I hadn't. Alex had developed behavioral problems from the constant struggles in his home life. The school had to inform Child Services. Dewayne didn't like that at all. I somehow talked him down from beating the social worker up, almost resulting in the kids being taken from me. The social worker forbade Dewayne to come to any of Alex appointments from then on out.
For a full twenty four hours every month we were free from Dewayne and Alex was finally getting some help. Bree would come out of her shell and Alex learned to control his outburst more.
That became our normal. Ten years on and we'd learned how to act and speak when we were around Dewayne. Bree was a blossoming nine year old and Alex a rowdy six year old. Free of the physical pain I'd cared for years till last night.
Dewayne finally snapped, grabbing Alex and choking him till he turned blue. Bree tried to stop her father and ended up getting punched in the face. When I walked into the living room seeing what all the commotion was about my body went cold with dread. I jumped on Dewayne's back and started clawing at his arms where he would drop my son. Blood was flowing from several scratches going down his arm when he finally dropped Alex making him hit the floor with a heavy thud.
I grabbed the kids and ran to the back of the house into the spare bathroom. I locked the door and put the kids in the bathtub before crawling in beside them. Alex and Bree were crying uncontrollably while Dewayne banged on the door trying to get in and finish the job. We stayed crouched in the tub all night till I heard Dewayne leave in the morning for work.
I helped them both out of the tub and into a sitting position on the side till the feeling came back in their legs and they could move. I ran my hands up each of their legs trying to help the circulation flow back into their legs, "Ok kids, I want y'all to go into your rooms and pack a bag. Get some clothes and a few toys, and make sure to get your sleep buddies. We're gonna leave while daddys gone, ok?"
Bree and Alex shook their heads ok then stood up and went to their rooms to do as I asked. I ran to the room I shared with Dewayne and threw some clothes in a bag. I opened the safe in the back of the closet and grabbed a stack of one hundred dollar bills. Dewayne didn't believe in having a bank account insisting on keeping his money in his own home, 'That way them bastards can't take what's mine.' I grabbed the few important papers I kept in the bottom and locked it back up.
I grabbed the bag from the bed and went to the door where the kids were already waiting, bags in hand. I opened the door and rushed the kids out and told them to get in the car and buckle up. I turned around and looked at the house that I had tried so hard to make a home for my babies. I took in the memories from every inch of this house. The good and the bad.
I wasn't sure where me and the kids were headed, we'd just drive till we figured it out. But the euphoric feeling inside me just couldn't be bothered about trivial things like that at the moment. This house that at one time held so much happiness and love, then turned into my own personal hell, could kiss my ass! I was taking my babies and leaving this place for good. I gave in to the first genuine smile I'd felt in a long time and shut the door. I got in my car and hurried to back out the driveway. I got to the end of the driveway and turned left toward the interstate. I started to laugh as the house grew smaller in the rear view mirror. Slowly at first, but it didn't take long for both Bree and Alex to join in.
I wish I could be a fly on the wall tonight when Dewayne walks in to find his Valentines presents to him. I took a can of spray paint from the safe, Dewayne's love of remodeling guns came in handy, and left him a note on the wall above the bed. 'Happy Valentine's Day Asshole! Hope To Never See You Again!'